By John Pierce

Today the class of 1978 dedicated a room in the Berry College student center in memory of Dan Biggers who died in 2011. We’ve been pitching in funds for a few years to honor this man who was so good to us.

The former dean of students and keeper of Berry’s historic properties was a friend to many. He could also invade our TV shows and movies.

With a strong voice and bold presence, Dan would often play a minister (Glory, Cold Sassy Tree, The Slugger’s Wife) or a judge. (He sentenced Andy Griffith in Murder in Coweta County.)

However, his best-known and longest-lasting role was as the coroner (Dr. Frank Robb) in the TV series, In the Heat of the Night.

Once, when the late chaplain Larry Green invited me to speak in the Berry College Chapel, Dan was the designated reader. After his booming, godlike rendering of the biblical text I really didn’t want to open my mouth.

Years later I’d take international students, who were spending the holidays in the Atlanta area, to Oak Hill (the Berry home place featured prominently in Sweet Home Alabama) and the Martha Berry Museum at Christmastime. Even after retirement, Dan would return to tell Christmas stories in his uniquely expressive way.

Today’s reminiscing by family and friends included tales of Dan giving gifts to others on his birthday and sending a student worker off to unknowingly speak about Berry’s great history before a group who had lived a big chunk of it — and were quick to make corrections.

One former student even told of being able to buy a motorcycle only because his dean of students cosigned for the loan.

While Dan’s voice is now silenced — except for the reruns that bring him back to us on occasion — there are many of us Berry grads who are grateful for what he said and did when not reading a script and performing before a camera.

This nicely paneled room with his name on it is a good reminder to us and to others of a very good and faithful man.

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